Covid vaccines have not caused four times as many deaths as all other vaccines combined

17 November 2021
What was claimed

The MHRA has confirmed deaths due to Covid-19 vaccines in 10 months are 330% higher than deaths due to all other vaccines in the past 20 years.

Our verdict

The MHRA did not say this. These statistics are based on reports sent to the regulator’s Yellow Card scheme, which does not confirm whether someone died from a vaccine. The MHRA also says deaths after Covid vaccines cannot be reliably compared with deaths after other vaccines, as there may be differences in reporting.

An article shared on Facebook claims that in the UK, the number of deaths due to Covid-19 vaccines in 10 months is 330% higher than the number of deaths due to all other vaccines combined over the last 20 years.

The article, published by The Exposé, claims that while there have been 1,739 deaths due to Covid-19 vaccines in 10 months, there have been just 404 deaths due to all other vaccines in 20 years. 

The figure for deaths after non-Covid vaccination comes from a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), while the figure for deaths after Covid vaccination was calculated by The Exposé using data from the MHRA’s Yellow Card reporting scheme. 

But, although it is correct that 1,739 “fatal events” were reported to the Yellow Card scheme following a Covid-19 vaccination between December 2020 and October 2021, as we have said before this does not necessarily mean a vaccine caused someone’s death. 

The Exposé’s article also does not consider a number of other issues when comparing these two particular sets of data. 

Reports of deaths do not mean vaccines were the cause

The MHRA’s Yellow Card scheme records all reports of suspected adverse effects associated with vaccines, including deaths, even if the reporter isn’t sure that they were caused by the vaccine. These reports can be submitted by health professionals or members of the public.

As The Exposé article says, the combined total of deaths reported after Covid-19 vaccination up to 27 October 2021 was 1,739. 

The MHRA states: “The majority of these reports were in elderly people or people with underlying illness. Usage of the vaccines has increased over the course of the campaigns and as such, so has reporting of fatal events with a temporal association with vaccination. 

“However, this does not mean that there is a link between vaccination and the fatalities reported. Review of individual reports and patterns of reporting does not suggest the vaccines played a role in these deaths.”  

By contrast, the MHRA (in its response to the FOI request) said it had received 404 Yellow Card reports of deaths associated with other vaccines over the past 20 years. 

However again, these reports do not confirm whether anyone actually died from vaccinations.

The FOI response states: “The fact that symptoms occur after use of a vaccine or medicine, and are reported via the Yellow Card scheme, does not in itself mean that they are proven to have been caused by it. Underlying or concurrent illnesses may be responsible and such events can also be coincidental.” 

The MHRA states in its weekly Yellow Card updates: “The nature of Yellow Card reporting means that reported events are not always proven side effects.

“Some events may have happened anyway, regardless of vaccination. This is particularly the case when millions of people are vaccinated, and especially when vaccines are being given to the most elderly people and people who have underlying illness.”

Comparing vaccine statistics is not simple 

In its FOI response, the MHRA said it was “not feasible” to make a comparison between the number of fatal Yellow Card reports for the Covid-19 vaccines and other vaccines. 

It said: “There are a range of factors that can lead to variable reporting of one vaccine over another, for instance, socio-demographic factors of vaccine recipients or whether or not they have been encouraged by information, or a healthcare professional, to make a report.” 

While we have figures for the number of Covid vaccinations in the last ten months, there isn’t a reliable figure for all other vaccinations in the last 20 years, making an accurate comparison difficult, if not impossible. We contacted the MHRA, the NHS and the UK Health Security Agency, and none of them were able to give a figure. 

Other data shows the benefits of Covid-19 vaccination

The MHRA said in its FOI response that the number and type of suspected adverse reactions to the Covid-19 vaccinations is not unusual and its analysis on their safety is consistent with the “robust clinical data” it has used to authorise all of the vaccines for use. 

It added: “The general safety profiles of the COVID-19 vaccines authorised in the UK are broadly similar to other types of routinely used vaccines. Our robust regulatory work continues to reinforce that the safety profile of the vaccines remains positive, and the benefits continue to far outweigh any known side effects.”

It should also be noted that while the Yellow Card scheme has been in place since the 1960s, the pandemic has introduced a huge number of people to it, with data from Google Trends showing that searches for “MHRA'' and “Yellow Card schemes” grew to their highest ever levels during the pandemic, particularly as Covid-19 vaccines were rolled out across the UK. The MHRA has also campaigned to ensure greater awareness of the scheme during the vaccine roll out.

This article is part of our work fact checking potentially false pictures, videos and stories on Facebook. You can read more about this—and find out how to report Facebook content—here. For the purposes of that scheme, we’ve rated this claim as partly false because the statistics the article is based on do not necessarily show that the deaths were due to vaccines.

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